About the Office of Forensic Services
The Office of Forensic Services (OFS) was established to carry out the provisions of Article 49-B of the Executive Law (section 995, et. seq.). OFS is responsible for administrative oversight of the New York State (NYS) DNA Databank and for maintaining a forensic laboratory accreditation program for public forensic laboratories in New York State under the authority of the NYS Commission on Forensic Science.
The Office of Forensic Services:
- Administers the state’s DNA Databank in cooperation with the New York State Police Crime Laboratory;
- Provides staff support to the state Commission on Forensic Science and its DNA Subcommittee;
- Monitors public forensic laboratory compliance with state accreditation standards;
- Facilitates technical training and other activities that enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of forensic testing services in the state;
- Promotes coordination and information sharing among the public laboratories; and
- Works with public forensic laboratories, law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies to improve the quality and delivery of forensic services.
Familial Search Regulation Now Effective
Familial searching is a process that evaluates whether any offenders in the New York State DNA Databank could be related to an individual that contributed DNA to a forensic profile developed from crime scene evidence.
The regulation permitting familial search requests by law enforcement agencies is now effective. A request must be made jointly by the chief executives of the investigating law enforcement agency and District Attorney with jurisdiction.
Representatives from police agencies or district attorneys’ offices may direct any questions about the process or application to the Office of Forensic Services at (518) 457-1901.
The New York State DNA Databank was created pursuant to Chapter 737 of the Laws of 1994. The statutory provisions establishing the Databank are found in Executive Law §995-c. The DNA Databank contains various indices, including the “Forensic Evidence Index” which contains DNA profiles obtained from crime scene evidence; “Convicted Offender Index” which contains DNA profiles obtained from offenders convicted of certain qualifying criminal offenses; “Missing Persons Index” that can contain DNA profiles of unknown human remains, missing persons, and family members who are related to missing persons; and the “Subject Index,” which was added in 2006 and contains the DNA profiles obtained from offenders convicted of crimes whose DNA specimens were collected: (1) pursuant to a plea agreement; (2) as a condition for participation in a DOCS’ temporary release, comprehensive alcohol and substance abuse treatment (“CASAT”), or shock incarceration program; (3) as a condition of release on parole, post-release supervision, presumptive release, or conditional release on a definite or indeterminate sentence; or (4) as a condition of probation or interim probation supervision.
- The NYS DNA Databank is part of a national system called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) operated by the FBI under the authority of the DNA Identification Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. §14132). CODIS is implemented as a distributed database with three hierarchical levels (or tiers) of the DNA Index System - local (LDIS), state (SDIS), and national (NDIS). This tiered approach allows individual state and local agencies to operate their respective DNA databases according to applicable state law and local policy. In New York State, DCJS has administrative oversight of the DNA Databank. The New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center (NYSP FIC) maintains the State DNA Index System (SDIS). There are eight Local DNA laboratories participating in CODIS and they are each referred to as a Local DNA Index System (LDIS) lab.
- To maintain the integrity of the DNA Databank, OFS has a rigorous verification procedure to ensure that only DNA samples that are authorized by law are included in the Databank. A paramount function of OFS is to ensure the statewide compliance with the collection of DNA samples from designated offenders. Therefore, OFS works diligently with law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies to improve the quality and delivery of forensic services. OFS staff regularly provides training on proper DNA collection techniques, assistance to law enforcement in collection of DNA samples from designated offenders and technical assistance to the courts and district attorneys on DNA collection plans and procedures.
NYS Commission on Forensic Science and DNA Subcommittee
The Commission on Forensic Science and the DNA Subcommittee were established by Article 49-B of the Executive Law. The Commission is empowered to, among other things, develop minimum standards and a program of accreditation for all forensic laboratories in New York State. Accreditation of a forensic DNA laboratory is granted through the DNA Subcommittee. The Subcommittee also advises the Commission on any matter related to the implementation of scientific controls and quality assurance procedures for the performance of forensic DNA analysis. OFS conducts its activities in coordination with the New York Crime Laboratory Advisory Committee (NYCLAC) and various technical working groups (TWGs) of forensic experts from State and local crime laboratories.
Technical Support to NYS Commission on Forensic Science
With general guidance from the NYS Crime Laboratory Advisory Committee (NYCLAC), technical working groups (TWGs) have been established for each forensic discipline and for quality control managers to promote uniform analytical protocols and quality assurance procedures, to identify technical training needs, and to provide technical consultation services to the Commission on Forensic Sciences in the evaluation of laboratories' performance on proficiency tests and conformance with accreditation standards.
Forensic Laboratory Compliance with New York State Accreditation Standards
OFS monitors forensic laboratories' compliance with accreditation standards established by the Commission on Forensic Science. This involves review of all documentation between the laboratories and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB), the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in connection with DNA laboratory accreditation and participation in the NYS DNA Databank.
Technical Training for Crime Laboratory Personnel
OFS facilitates highly specialized technical training programs for crime laboratory personnel in order to maintain proficiency and currency in analytical methods.